In case you missed it last week, make sure to read through my “part one” article for Assassin’s Creed Unity where I give my thoughts on Unity’s rough launch. If you want gameplay related opinions, then this post is for you.
Alright, enough with the pre-launch hype and review issues with Unity, lets take a closer look on how the game actually plays, shall we? In the end, gameplay is the most important thing.
First, lets get to some of my favorite things about Unity. For me, the obvious choice is the setting. I absolutely love history so getting to run around 18th century Paris during such a violent time as the French Revolution is a joy. Seeing and being able to interact with such historical figures as Maximilien Robespierre, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Mirabeau among so many others is a wonderful experience. Headlining this all is the superior graphics on display not only with the animations and visuals but the just incredible attention to detail in the city of Paris itself. The major buildings such as the Notre Dame, Pantheon, and Jardin du Luxembourg are incredible to stumble upon, towering over the landscape and crafted with such detail.
Seriously, I could spend an entire article talking about how well developed Paris is, but lets move on as I have a large list of topics to cover. Full post awaits you below the jump…
Arno Dorian, lead assassin this time around, is set up almost like Ezio from Assassin’s Creed II in terms of how we get to know him as a person. With Unity, we get to see Arno as a child, experience his pain through an interesting backstory, and see him grow up through becoming an Assassin. Personally, I found Arno to be quite likable, though for you Black Flag fans, you may miss Edward’s rougish charm. Arno comes off closer to an Ezio type, brash, cocky and overconfident in his abilities, though as he grows through the events in the game, you also see him mature more as a person. So far, I’m enjoying his character arc.
The parkour system has also gone back to the drawing board now controlled through two buttons: one for ascending and another for descending. Holding the right trigger and pressing a corresponding button will cause Arno to find the best route up a building while a different button controls how you travel down a building as well. What I enjoy most is that now you can parkour down a building rather than straight jumping off of the roof or diving into a haystack. The system works pretty well even if Arno sometimes gets caught up on the wrong ledge (a series staple). What I also find interesting is that the parkour animations are much more fluid and realistic looking than they ever have previously.
One final thing before I move on is the fact that those mind numbingly frustrating tail and eavesdrop missions are notably absent from Unity this time around and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. In it’s place are much more meaningful and interesting missions including assassination missions which let you determine the best way to take out the target. Gone are the narrow focused methods and instead are open sandbox moments letting you craft the best path to make the kill. Included in these missions are optional side tasks which can offer interesting and different ways to take out your target. Better yet? Failure doesn’t always mean game over anymore. Instead, the objective may shift instead of causing a reload screen.
Along with the Parkour system being rebuilt, the franchise’s combat system has also gone under a sort of reinvention. As the series continue to move on, it seemed like the lead characters became more adept at combat. For a group heavily associated with stealth and quick kills, a player could easily take on a group of enemies and not think twice about it.
With Unity, that’s all out the door. No longer can you chain kill enemies and button mashing is a quick way to get you killed. Enemies are smarter and carry more tools for combat, especially if they’re of a higher level. Combat revolves around parrying attacks and striking when you see an opening resulting in a much slower and defensive pace than it ever has before. This also means that it’s much easier to get overwhelmed so you’ll be using smoke and stun bombs probably more than ever before in an effort to escape and regroup. It’s a system that definitely requires you to think about what you’re doing or risk getting skewered by a sword.
Another massive change comes to the highly controversial aspect to the franchise: modern day. So as many of you know, the core idea in Assassin’s Creed is that you’re a person in the modern era replaying your ancestor’s life through your genetic DNA in a machine called The Animus. There’s a ton of back story details that I won’t get into here but in previous games, these modern day segments were a significant aspect typically splitting player feelings between ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’. With Unity, it clearly takes a backseat for the core French Revolution gameplay almost entirely being omitted save for a few bits and pieces here and there. As someone who enjoys the modern day story line, I was a bit surprised by this, but while you don’t have to walk around a fictional game studio or jump around ancient ruins searching for a mystical neon person, Unity does give you little hints at the overall picture through a couple of small cutscenes. Helix rifts are a cool addition, warping you into different time zones and giving you little glimpses into the continuing story line of Abstergo Entertainment from Black Flag through hacked documents. Compared to previous games, these segments are pretty sparse, but there is stuff there for modern era fans to consume if they want.
Unity features a great customization system letting Arno customize things like armor and weapons which change his stats based on Melee, Health, Stealth, and Range. Unfortunately, Ubisoft decided to support this feature with four different types of currencies which all have different purposes in the game. Different currencies purchase different things from weapons and gear, to skills and boosts, to colors and item upgrades. The last is also a form of microtransaction if you want to go that route also. Frankly, it’s too much. There’s absolutely no reason why a game should have four different currencies, it just makes the game overly confusion and obtuse.
Not only that, Ubisoft is really pushing their companion pieces to Unity through the Assassin’s Creed Initiate’s website and their handheld app. The sad aspect is, they want you to use it so much that certain things in the core game are locked behind them. Yellow and Blue chests in the world can only be opened through using these items, otherwise they’ll be locked away permanently. What’s worse is that the Initiates site isn’t working fully (at this time) as it’s supposed to including giving credit for playing any previous Assassin’s Creed game attached to your Uplay account. Worse is that many of the site’s features are listed as “Coming Soon” on the site and just weren’t ready for the game’s launch. From what I’ve read though, you’re not missing anything by not using these supplemental items like unlocking achievements and getting cool gear for Arno, but the fact that it’s so blatantly pushed upon the player is a little disheartening.
Obviously, if you’re someone that’s read any sort of gaming news since Unity came out, you’re well aware of the game’s less than stellar reviews which point out the games technical shortcomings. Yes, it does have framerate issues (varies depending on your platform), NPC pop-in sometimes, and odd quirks here and there, I ultimately found these issues to be minor. Ubisoft has already released two patches and is working on a third which is aiming to shore up the remaining technical issues like the framerate and NPC behavior. If all goes according to plan, this should significantly improve the experience and eliminate many of the negative points levied against the game.
One of the other aspects about Unity that disappoints me is pretty minor but important to me. Think back to Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood for a moment; games focused on the height of the Italian Renaissance. Those games felt like you were smack dab in Italy, from the look of the cities, to the accents of the characters and Ezio himself. This is something that Unity only gets half right. The city of Paris looks great and really sells it, but the issue I have is with the accents of the characters. They all speak with a very heavy English accent, kind of like we’re actually in Industrial Revolution era London or something. If it weren’t for the French names or the random city goers speaking in French, you’d never know. I know this is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, but it has a tendency to break the immersion for me. I was really hoping for some great French accents similar to what Ezio gave us but alas, it’s not meant to be. Again, a minor personal gripe.
Finally, Unity ditches the series multiplayer modes in favor of co-op. While I did enjoy my time with the multiplayer modes in previous games, I would not argue against the fact that I felt the mode needed some time off for a refresher period. Thankfully, the co-op mode in Unity is completely legit and is something I wanted to see added for the longest time. Yes, there are co-op campaign missions detailing more of the Reign of Terror events, but you’re also getting Heist missions where you and up to three other people join forces to infiltrate and steal an artifact. The stealthier you are, the bigger the prize at the end. The best part of co-op is the fact that you can also free roam the entire city together. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had in an Assassin’s Creed game just messing around with the guards.
Assassin’s Creed Unity has been a complete rollercoaster ride of emotions. I was beyond excited when it was revealed that Unity would be takling place in Revolutionary France, and crushed when the game’s reviews hit revealing technical issues galore. Still, I decided to take the plunge and I’m extremely satisfied with that decision. While Unity is certainly not glitch free, it’s no where near as bad as reported and I’m having a fantastic time. If you’re a fan of the franchise in any way, Unity is a very safe bet.